Donating for freeware

If I’ve ever talked to you about Windows Mobile, the chances are I’ve probably mentioned my wiki note-taking app. Of all of the bits of mobile code hacking that I’ve done, it is the one that (a) I dont seem to shut up about, and (b) has been one of my most popular*.

The app has been around for over a year now, and gets downloaded from about 1000 – 1700 unique IP addresses each month (Plus a few thousand more from mirrors on freeware sites).

The forum set up for users to report bugs and request features has over sixty active users.

And I generally get emails from 20 or 30 other people with requests each month who don’t want to use the forum for whatever reason.

I’ve even had emails from people using the app far more than I ever envisaged: people who are using the wiki as a work intranet wiki, installing a copy for each of their staff; people who use the wiki to maintain and develop websites; and more.

It would seem that there is an audience and a demand for this app.

Nearly a year ago, I decided to try a little experiment to see how this demand would translate into people prepared to pay for it.

I’m not looking to make money out of the app myself – I wrote it for my own use, and continue to develop it as a hobby. Instead, I used justgiving to set up a donations page – and made the wiki into donation-ware.

“If you find this useful, you are invited to show your appreciation by donating a token sum to a charity that I have nominated”.

Twelve months later, the donations page is soon to close, and it’s interesting to see the outcome of this entirely-unscientific experiment.

  • £107 was donated in total by seven people (that’s discounting the £5 I donated myself to get it started and make it look a little less empty!)
  • the mean sum donated by each person was about £15
  • two of the seven people who donated money did so on two occasions – making a second donation a few months after their first (wow!)
  • only one of the seven donors allowed justgiving to collect GiftAid – suggesting that perhaps only one of the seven is UK-resident

I wonder what impact it would have had if I was asking for money for myself, rather than a charity that I support. My guess is that I would have received less money.

I don’t even want to think about how this would relate to an hourly-rate… after a couple of hundred revisions, I guess I must’ve put hundreds of hours into it. At any rate, I certainly wont be leaving IBM to become a full-time utilities application developer anytime soon! 😉


* – behind my plugin for Pocket Internet Explorer, which gets a stupid number of downloads every month (helped by a link to it on the site).

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